Weapons shipments from Serbia to Armenia through Georgia – fact or fiction?
Alleged arms deliveries from Serbia to Armenia during the recent flare up of violence on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border provoked the protest of official Baku.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry categorically denied this information, but the opposition in Georgia still has questions.
Information from Baku
Azerbaijani sources have put forward two accounts of the alleged arms delivery: the official government line and one disseminated by popular news website haqqin.az, which many consider to be pro-government.
On the official level, Azerbaijan has questions only for Serbia, and Georgia is not mentioned.
A press release from the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry states that there is “reliable and confirmed information that a large consignment of mortar shells of various calibers and other ammunition were delivered from Serbia to Armenia.”
Serbian Chargé d’Affaires Danica Veinovic, who was summoned to the Foreign Ministry for a conversation, said that she had no information on this matter and promised to transfer the questions of official Baku to the Serbian government.
At the same time, the Serbian edition of Nova.rs published a confirmation that the supply of weapons to Armenia had taken place, although not at the official level.
“In 2020, one private company supplied weapons to Armenia, state-owned companies did not participate in this. I cannot say which company we are talking about. It is known that mainly rifles and pistols worth less than a million euros in May and June were supplied”, the country’s Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Rasim Ljajic, told nova.rs, whose ministry oversees the arms export permit process.
Ljajic said that there are no sanctions against Armenia and in such a case it is difficult to refuse a buyer.
He also recalled that a permit for the export of weapons is issued only after the approval of four other government agencies: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Defense and the BIA special service.
“I believe that we must not allow something like this to happen again, we must do everything to avoid it,” said Ljajic.
No official statements, either in Azerbaijan or in Serbia, mentioned that the supply of weapons was carried out through the territory of Georgia.
Information published by the Azerbaijani news portal haqqin.az
Meanwhile, in an editorial published by haqqin.az on July 19, it was alleged Serbia transported a large batch of mortar ammunition of various calibers to Armenia directly on the days of hostilities on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border on July 12-16, 2020.
The authors of the article stated that the Azerbaijani government has irrefutable data on the supply of weapons precisely through Georgia.
Later, the publication published a second article, where it talks about specific businessmen who deliver weapons, including reports that cooperation with them is prohibited by international sanctions.
There is also a photo of a military convoy that allegedly delivers equipment to Armenia, and, according to the newspaper, was made in Georgia.
Information from Georgia
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia called the reports of haqqin.az disinformation.
In a press release for the media, it is said that the publication “misleads society and artificially creates a problem in relations between countries-strategic partners.”
More detailed information from the Georgian Foreign Ministry was requested by the representative of the opposition United National Movement party Salome Samadashvili.
“We know that it is Russia’s policy to maintain instability in our region. Russia supplies arms to both sides of the conflict – Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Information from Azerbaijani media may mean that the Georgian government was unable to refuse requests from Russia.”
Samadashvili stressed that Georgia has no right to allow the delivery of military cargo through its territory to any party to the conflict, in accordance with the country’s international obligations.
In response to this request, Gia Volsky, a deputy from the ruling Georgian Dream party, said it was impossible for a military convoy carrying weapons to the opposing sides could move through Georgia.
“Military actions along the border with our country are not in the interests of Georgia,” Volsky said and called on the peoples of Azerbaijan and Armenia to avoid additional provocations.
Opposition European Georgia party member Gigi Bokeria however says the statement of the Foreign Ministry is an insufficiently serious response from Georgia.
“If the information [of the Azerbaijani media] is true, this is not only a step against two neighboring countries, against Azerbaijan, which is our strategic partner. It is also a step that threatens the lives of Georgian citizens.
And if this is not true, a quick and concrete reaction from the executive branch and society is needed, which will prove that these messages are false.”